Hitting the Hills with A Boost
It is pretty common for an automotive manufacturer to claim to already "know" the customers who will buy their products. Car buyers seem happily oblivious to how they can surprise automotive manufacturers with their car buying decisions. It is almost unfortunate that car buyers aren't able to relish the moment when they can prove that they cannot possibly be targeted by a marketing group that has many combined years of psychology classes, design theory and Power Point training. Case in point: the number of Senior Citizens driving the original Scion xB who have never heard of the XGames. The 2013 Buick Verano Turbo may just be one of those surprise sales that leaves the marketers puzzled yet pleased since Buick claims that the Verano's turbo-ed trim level isn't aimed at enthusiasts.
For the last nine months, the compact, entry-level luxury Buick Verano has climbed its way to sales success with consecutive months of sales going up, one month after another, as a reward for the considerate personality-laden style and quality that comes at a good value. And with more than 50 percent of the buyers coming from brands other than Buick, the petite sedan has earned its chops as a conquesting hero in the midst of a re-invented brand lineup that shows the new side of Buick. The hopped-up Verano Turbo adds quite a bit of horsepower to that Verano package that has sold so well and we were recenty encouraged to put the new boosted Verano Turbo to the test in the hills of rural Kentucky. What we discovered was Buick's commitment to leaving the competition scratching its head wondering where these non-enthusiast buyers have gone from their import branded compact luxury cars. And, in so many ways, leaving the competition behind.
So, if Buick knows who these Verano Turbo buyers are not, at least the buyers will certainly know what they are getting. The 2013 Buick Verano Turbo is based on the same platform as the Chevrolet Cruze indeed, but as we have pointed out before, the platforms may be the same but the result is very different. The Verano and Verano Turbo simply have the new Buick signature all over the exterior that keeps them a step above the Cruze's simple chic. No one wins here; it's just that one just gets to be the compact luxury car.
The difference between the Verano and the Verano Turbo is the Turbo sports a special badge on the back, has twin-tipped exhaust, sports a tasteful spoiler and offers the choice between two new 18-inch wheel styles with finishes unique to the Turbo trim. These are subtle differences but just enough that, in an Audi-like fashion, it becomes obvious that the real pleasure of driving the Verano Turbo is in the act of driving it, not just pushing a bit of bling about the roads. More about the drive soon, but first, we need to address the creature comforts within the doors.
Inside, the Verano Turbo has the same three trim levels as the regular Verano and features Intellilink, Buick's infotainment package with satellite radio, navigation and voice recognition, as standard. A rear backup camera is also standard and includes Rear-Cross Traffic Alert and the ever-so-useful Side Blind Zone Alert. Heated seats and heated steering wheel with remote start, fog lamps, push-button start ... the list that makes this compact fall into the luxury class keeps going.
And, did we mention that this all starts below a class-challenging $30,000.00? Now that we have your attention, it's time for the drive.
Actually, the 2013 Buick Verano Turbo will do 0-60 in 6.2 seconds according to Buick, and we will take them at their word. Afterall, it isn't your father's Buick but we were on the roads of rural Kentucky lined with family farms and we were sharing roadspace with family animals like we were on the set of Milo and Otis. Now, if we were at Virginia International Speedway, we might have a different review. As it is, we had fun taking the turns, even if we didn't take them sideways.
What we can tell you is that the 250-horsepower with 260 lb.-ft. of torque is not insignificant in such a lightweight car. The ability to pass slow-moving traffic was a breeze ... even a thrill. The Verano Turbo comes standard with a manual, 6-speed transmission with the automatic transmission as an option. We really liked (preferred) the manual and found that a Sport setting button on the automatic, à la the Regal GS, would have been a nice addition, as would paddle shifters (not quite as important as a Sport button request and so just a "nice to have" feature), but the lack of either didn't mean that the automatic couldn't also be a challenging drive. In fact, the automatic does change gears faster than is humanly possible by us, so we really can't complain. The suspension is tuned, also like the Regals GS, to be tight and in touch with the driver and the road. It is there that we have to question Buick's insistence that the Verano Turbo is firmly not an enthusiast's car. The Verano Turbo is actually tuned to be an enthusiastic driver's car.
Clever! We see what you did there, Buick. How subtle of you.
Without a doubt, the 2013 Buick Verano Turbo has stepped into a class that defies the old conventions in so many ways. Luxury cars used to only be large, over-powered sedan-beasts that were difficult to park. At this price, car buyers who aspire to the contemporary category of luxury cars that includes everything from gas-guzzling SUVs to compact whiz-bangs, are in the game. And Buick Verano Turbo buyers are the winners in the compact luxury class.
The "enthusiast" profile seems to be getting more broad and claiming more souls who enjoy the sound of speed and the convenience of upgraded technology and performance packages. Buick might just need to re-evaluate their idea of what an enthusiast is when they meet their 2013 Buick Verano Turbo buyers. Or, maybe they already know and they just aren't sharing.
What we do know is that car buyers don't shop by category so when Buick says that the main competition is the Acura ILX and the Lexus IS250, we believe that they have done their category research but, more realistically, people shop first by price before category. At this value, a tricked out Honda Accord or a top of the line Toyota Camry offers less at the same price or more, as a Verano Turbo. But if buyers look at the ILX or the IS250, the value will certainly bring them back to the Verano Turbo. Regardless if they were considering the Accord or the Camry, the Acura or the Lexus, then that Buick "entry level" pricing that includes a lot of bells and whistles, works like a charm to get buyers into the brand.
At this rate, enthusiasts aren't going to be just those who are obsessed with cars and rarely buy new. People can become enthusiasts, right, Buick? Or, is Buick too busy to answer because it is in the laboratory creating enthusiastic drivers?
Test vehicle courtesy of General Motors.
Photos courtsey of Buick Media.